APPLEGATE: Schools continue to plan for the 2020-21 school year

Despite ever-changing information, schools around the country are hard at work planning for the 2020-21 school year even with the uncertain impact of COVID-19 in the next few months. The 2020-21 school year may seem like a moving target, but Niles Community Schools is pleased with the plans that are coming together and the support we have received from parents along the way.

What the 2020-21 school year will look like remains to be seen, but the Niles Community Schools district continues exploring every option to ensure student learning continues while also providing a safe environment for students, teachers and staff.

The district remains flexible in its planning, understanding we may need to phase in or out of plans along the way. We hope to return to normal as soon as possible but realize that a remote learning component is likely to be needed sometime during next school year. The goal is for students to still have a physical presence at their schools as much as possible.

One possible scenario would include requiring students to alternate between in-classroom learning and remote learning. If any amount of remote learning is mandated, we will provide a set schedule and bring more consistency and structure to our students’ lives. The district will continue to work closely with the Berrien County Health Department to determine how many students can be allowed in a building at one time and we will communicate frequently throughout the summer.

As mentioned, we understand the difficulty school closures place on our families and our goal is to bring as many students as possible back each school day. However, we also know that parents may feel uncomfortable or cautious about sending their child to school until a vaccine has been found. To address this legitimate concern, Niles Community Schools will expand, enhance and offer virtual school learning options at each of our schools.

Families enrolled at any of our schools will have the option to continue to be a larger part of their child’s academic career without physically being in the building. This is a great way to stay connected with their peers and be able to integrate back into the classroom at any time. Building principals will have more information available about this option in the next few weeks.

Even with all the unknowns, we do know when school will start. In order to provide instruction as soon as possible, the district will be utilizing the county-wide pre-Labor Day start waiver. As we announced earlier this month, the first day of classes will be Monday, Aug. 31.

While the district continues to face hurdles and develop plans for the 2020-21 school year, we have been thrilled with the amount of support the district has received from the community. Niles teachers and staff have risen to the challenge and have been as innovative and hardworking as ever. We also appreciate the community celebrating our educators and recognizing their work. It has been rewarding to see the bond between parents and their child’s teacher grow as we navigate these times together. As a Niles Community Schools family, we continue to be stronger together — even remotely — than we are apart.

As a community, we will continue to move forward through this uncharted territory together. There are still challenges that we will face, including the conversation surrounding school funding and learning options for the school year, but we will continue to move forward in the best interest of our students. As always, thank you, and go, Vikes!